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Thursday, April 24, 2014

DIY Cat Toys: Refurbished Feather Wand

Materials for feather wand
Photo by Kate Tompkins
5 or 6 feathers
Flexible stick, 2 feet or so in length
Duct tape

Cut off a strip of duct tape four or five inches in length. Lay the bottoms of the feathers side by side at one end. Wrap feathers and tape around end of stick. Squash tape together at non-feather end for close fit.

It works better if one of the feathers is stiff—a crow feather, for example—so it makes an intriguing rustling noise when you rub it across the floor.

Attach feathers to tape
Photo by Kate Tompkins
 I was in a pet store once looking for more of those sparkly balls my cat loves to lose under the furniture when I saw the most amazing feather wand. It had two black, iridescent feathers and two long thin strips of feather boa in bright colours attached to it. What cat could resist?

Mine, apparently. While she loved the rustling noise the black feathers made if I rubbed the wand across the floor or walls or under furniture, the dangly bits didn’t interest her at all. So when one of the feathers broke and I decided to repair it, I threw out the dangly bits and used more feathers instead. She loves the new version, though I have to repair it every other week or so as the feathers get broken in play.

The finished product
Photo by Kate Tompkins
You should be able to find feathers and duct tape at your local dollar store. As for the stick, if you don’t have an existing feather wand to repair you can use an actual stick, though you want one that’s somewhat springy.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Sweet Mustard

8 tablespoons ground mustard
1 tablespoon Club House barbecue chicken seasoning (optional)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup water
6 tablespoons vinegar

Combine dry ingredients in saucepan and stir. Add water and vinegar. Place on stove at medium heat, stirring constantly. Simmer five minutes, turning heat down if necessary. Pour into sterilized one cup canning jar. Let cool and refrigerate.

You can add a couple of tablespoons of mustard seed before cooking if you like the look and texture.

Friday, April 18, 2014

My Goodness My Guinness Beer Bread

My Goodness My Guiness Beer Bread
Photo by Kate Tompkins
4 cups flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup chopped dates
3/4 cup roasted unsalted sunflower seeds
1 440 ml (14 ounce) can Guinness

Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a large bowl, combine all the dry ingredients. Add the beer and stir until mixed. It will be tough going towards the end. Spoon into large greased loaf pan and press down to make sure all the corners are filled—you might want to grease your hands first so the dough doesn’t stick.

Bake for 50 minutes or until the bottom of the loaf sounds hollow when you knock on it. Remove from pan immediately and let cool.

If you prefer a less rustic-looking loaf, you can knead the dough before putting it into the pan.

If you prefer a softer crust, brush melted butter over the top once the bread has been removed from the oven.

Serving suggestion: Slather with cream cheese, or serve with soup or as part of a ploughman's lunch.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Gumdrop Loaf

Gumdrop Loaf
Photo by Kate Tompkins
2 ½ cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
¼ cup vegetable oil
1 ½ cups milk
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup baking gums*

Preheat oven to 350°F. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar and baking powder. Add vegetable oil and milk. Break egg into a small cup and beat with a fork, just until yolk and white are combined. Add to the bowl, along with the vanilla. Stir until batter is smooth. Add baking gums and stir again until they’re evenly distributed.

Pour batter into a large greased loaf pan. Bake in the centre of the oven until a cake tester comes out clean (about an hour). Let cool, then slice and serve.
Gumdrop Loaf
Photo by Kate Tompkins

*These are not the same as the gumdrops you eat. They’re smaller, harder, and generally found in the baking section of the bulk store.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Aloha Granola Bars

Aloha Granola Bar
Photo by Kate Tompkins
1/3 cup margarine
1/3 cup peanut butter
4 cups miniature marshmallows
3 cups Aloha Granola

Thoroughly grease an 8 x 8 inch square pan. In a medium to large pot, on low, melt margarine. Stir in peanut butter. Add marshmallows and continue to stir until melted. Remove from heat and stir in the granola. Press into pan and let cool. Cut into squares or bars, as you prefer.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Aloha Granola

Aloha Granola
Photo by Kate Tompkins
7 cups quick (not instant) oatmeal
1 cup white sesame seeds
1/2 cup melted coconut oil
1/3 cup honey
1 cup dark chocolate chips
1 cup dried pineapple tidbits
1 cup diced coconut

Combine the first four ingredients in a large bowl. Spread out on a large cookie sheet and place in oven. Turn oven to 225°F. Leave oatmeal mixture in oven for two hours, then turn oven off and leave for one more hour.
Combine the first four ingredients in a large bowl.
Photo by Kate Tompkins

Return oatmeal mixture to bowl and stir in remaining ingredients. Place in a storage container.

Makes 11 cups

Note: You can substitute any vegetable oil for the coconut oil. If you have an allergy to nuts, you can substitute another cup of oatmeal for the sesame seeds. Otherwise, they not only give good flavour, they’re a good source of several vitamins and minerals and add protein.

This recipe can easily be made by any child old enough to turn the oven on and off. The pan may still be warm when removed, so oven mitts should be used.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Beets Dressed with Butter and Vinegar

Beets Dressed with Butter and Vinegar
Photo by Kate Tompkins
1 ½ cups diced cooked beets (see below)
1 heaping tablespoon butter (margarine’s fine)
2 tablespoons white vinegar

Melt the butter in a saucepan on low. Add the vinegar and beets and turn the heat up to medium. Cook, stirring occasionally, until heated through.

Serves three to four.

Cooked Beets

Cooking beets is messy and time-consuming. That’s why I like to buy a 10 pound bag when they go on sale in the fall and prepare them all at once. They freeze beautifully and I pull out what I need when I want to make the recipe above or perhaps some borscht.

10 pound bag of beets

Cut the leaves and stems, if any, off the beets. If the leaves are nice and fresh, they can be cooked like spinach. Otherwise compost them. Place the beets, dirt, roots and all, in a large pot and cover with water. Boil for an hour or until you can easily stick a fork into them, stirring occasionally. Drain and let cool.

Once they’re cool enough to handle, cut off the tops and bottoms and remove their jackets. You should be able to remove most of the skin with your fingers, but use a paring knife where needed. Cut into dice and put in small freezer bags to freeze.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Slow Cooker Lentil Soup

Ingredients for Lentil Soup
Photo by Kate Tompkins
  • 4 tablespoons Cyrches dehydrated chicken bouillon (or as much of your preferred brand as will make up 3 1/2 quarts. I like Cyrches because it’s low sodium)
  • 1 quart boiling water
  • 4 tablespoons Spice-a-Rice pilaf liquid seasoning (or just substitute 2 more tablespoons bouillon and 2 tablespoons curry powder)
  • 2 1/2 quarts water
  • 3 cups split red lentils (add 1/2 cup if you prefer a thick soup)
  • 4 cups frozen vegetables for spaghetti sauce
  • 1/2 pound ham steak, diced (optional)

Place dehydrated chicken bouillon in bottom of 6 quart crock pot. Add boiling water and stir. Add Spice-a-Rice seasoning and stir. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir once more. Cook for at least 4 hours on high or 8 hours on low.

Makes 5-6 quarts.
Slow Cooker Lentil Soup
Photo by Kate Tompkins

Tastes even better the second day. My husband likes to add hot sauce to his. Freezes well. If you leave out the ham, this dish is vegetarian, as neither the chicken bouillon or the Spice-a-Rice actually contain animal products.

The inspiration for this recipe came from an 1884 cookbook I found on Project Gutenberg, called Fifty Soups, by Thomas J. Murrey. I give it here, in case you want to make it the old-fashioned way.

“Lentil Soup.—Lentils are very nutritious, and form the basis of a most excellent soup; but they are little used in American cookery. Soak a pint of dry lentils for two hours; put them in a saucepan; add two quarts of cold water, half an onion, two or three celery tops, salt, whole peppers, and two or three ounces of the small end of a ham. Boil gently for three hours; add a little more hot water, if the quantity has been reduced by boiling, pour through a sieve, remove the ham, onion and celery; rub the lentils through a sieve, return to the soup; whisk it thoroughly; taste for seasoning, and serve with croutons.”